May 20, 2011
By Linda Girardi
SUGAR GROVE — Carla Childs decided to take a college assessment test with her oldest daughter, never thinking she would return to school. “When I received the test results, everything seemed to roll,” said Childs, 38.
Thursday night, Waubonsee Community College held its 43rd commencement ceremonies in Erickson Hall, where family and friends gathered to celebrate academic achievement.
Nearly 300 graduates, fitted in traditional gray graduation caps and gowns, walked to the stage to receive their diplomas.
Childs, a single mom with six children ages 7 to 20 — including two who are adopted — plans to pursue a degree in criminal justice at Southern Illinois University, the school where Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon taught law school.
Simon — a lawyer, teacher and working mother — gave the commencement address. She is the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon.
“I did have to keep my nose to the grind because I still have children in school and I was working the third shift, but it felt like I never left school,” Childs said.
The Montgomery mother said it was two decades past since she was last in school. She hopes to one day attend law school.
“My children and family were my motivation,” Childs said. “I wanted to leave my children an example, and I waited until two weeks ago to tell my mother that I was graduating. I see more windows of opportunity. It is important for me to leave a mark on society by helping and encouraging people.”
Thirty-nine-year-old Alberto Colin of Aurora maintained a 4.0 but didn’t expect to receive the college’s presidential honors medallion for academic excellence when he registered for Thursday’s ceremonies. Colin said he graduated from Aurora Central Catholic High School 22 years ago and earned an associate’s degree in electronics technology.
“This time around, I appreciate my education — nothing was going to stand in my way,” he said.
Simon, the governor’s point person on education reform, earlier in the day visited with faculty and administrators as part of a statewide tour of Illinois’ 48 community colleges. The Quinn administration earlier this year launched an effort to increase the number of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates.
Simon congratulated the graduates. “I am impressed with your accomplishments,” Simon said, adding that spouses and family members were also deserving of applause.
“Your education will not only serve you, but it will serve the state of Illinois,” Simon said. “You inspire others to pursue an education. Tell people what your story is and what your degree means to you.”
This year, 864 graduates earned degrees — an increase of 14 percent over 2010. “This is our largest class ever,” WCC President Christine Sobek said.